- A return is finally in sight for Angels DH (and once and future starting pitcher) Shohei Ohtani, who’s nearing readiness after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. As Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com was among those to tweet, the reigning Rookie of the Year had a promising medical check-up today. So long as nothing intervenes, he’ll begin taking cuts against live pitching early next week. It’s not hard to imagine Ohtani ramping up quickly from that point in time.
The Angels announced today that starter Tyler Skaggs is headed to the 10-day injured list. He’s dealing with a left ankle sprain incurred in his last outing, as MLB.com’s Maria Torres was among those to cover via Twitter.
Fortunately, the outlook seems to be quite positive for Skaggs. His hope is to return to action in short order. It seems reasonable to presume that he’ll be able to keep his arm in condition for whatever time he is down, so a return to action ought to be in sight once the ankle progresses.
That’s about the least worrying possible explanation for the velocity dip that Skaggs showed late in his last start. His problematic arm injury history isn’t implicated. The Halos will hope that Skaggs can use the down time both to rest up a bit and figure out how to tamp down on the long balls that have thus far marred his season.
Skaggs has shown some promising and some worrying signs thus far. Through 15 innings over three starts, Skaggs carries a promising combination of 8.4 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. But he has already allowed four balls to leave the yard. The 27-year-old is exhibiting reduced velocity thus far, which perhaps has been part of the impetus for his shift away from the heater in favor of his curve and change.
Despite the uncertainty, there’s no doubting Skaggs’s importance to the Halos — particularly with Andrew Heaney also on the sideline at the moment. The void in the rotation will be filled by Jaime Barria, who’s joined by fellow righty John Curtiss in ascending to the active MLB roster. Infielder Taylor Ward was optioned to open the other needed roster spot for those promotions.
Angels megastar Mike Trout, who has been unavailable for several days due to a groin injury, has shown improvement and will rejoin the Angels for their series in Texas, per Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group. He remains day-to-day and it is yet unclear when he will be ready to return to the lineup, but the update is certainly welcome news for the Angels. Trout exited the Angels’ April 9 contest with the Brewers after suffering a right groin strain and remained in Los Angeles while the rest of the team traveled to Chicago. The club has managed well in Trout’s absence, finishing a three-game sweep of the Brewers and winning one of two games against the Cubs, with Sunday’s rubber match postponed. The news should certainly inspire some optimism for Angels fans, who have collectively been holding their breath since Trout’s injury. Considering the circumstances, it would feel like the best-case scenario for the Halos to get their franchise cornerstone back after just a handful of games, a stretch in which the team has maintained its winning form.
Here are the latest updates on other injuries from around Major League Baseball…
- Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress has completed his rehab assignment and will rejoin the Brewers on Monday, per Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Jeffress, a stalwart of the Brewers’ dynamic bullpen in 2018, has been on the shelf for the beginning of the season with a shoulder issue, which has since been resolved, says Haudricourt. He will join Josh Hader in a Milwaukee bullpen that will be without Corey Knebel, who underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this season.
- In Sunday’s victory over the Orioles, Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi fouled a ball sharply off his right foot and had to exit the game. In some good news for the Sox, though, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reports that x-rays on Benintendi’s foot returned negative results, though Benintendi will be day-to-day with a foot contusion. He was replaced in left field by Blake Swihart on Sunday, who could continue to serve as Benintendi’s substitute if he misses any time.
- Orioles righty Alex Cobb, out since April 6 with a lumbar strain, won’t come off the IL when first eligible, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com was among those to report. It doesn’t appear Cobb will miss much more time, however. Manager Brandon Hyde indicated he could start during the Orioles’ upcoming series against the Twins, which runs from April 19-21. Cobb pitched well in his lone start of the season, an April 4 loss to the Yankees in which he threw 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball.
- Seattle Mariners southpaw Wade LeBlanc will miss 4-6 weeks with a grade 2 oblique strain, skipper Scott Servais told reporters, including The Athletic’s Corey Brock (Twitter link). With LeBlanc headed to the 10-day IL, the team has called up right-hander Erik Swanson from Triple-A. Swanson will take LeBlanc’s place in the starting rotation and is slated to make his first Major League start on Wednesday.
It doesn’t seem as if the Angels will end up needing to place superstar Mike Trout on the injured list. The club indicated in an announcement today that he’s recovering well after tweaking his groin muscle recently, with an MRI showing that the swelling is subsiding and Trout “report[ing] daily improvement.” Another medical review is scheduled for Sunday. It’s not known whether Trout could be activated thereafter, but a decision will need to be made sooner than later. While the club obviously prefers not to go without him any longer than necessary, the worst outcome would be for Trout to make things worse by rushing back.
The Angels have agreed to a minor league contract with right-hander Parker Bridwell, according to multiple reports (including Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, on Twitter). It’ll be his third stint with the Halos organization. Presumably, he’ll eventually find his way to Triple-A Salt Lake, though he could also get his feet wet in extended Spring Training or with a lower-level affiliate early on. He’d been with the Athletics in Spring Training but was released a few days into the season after failing to break camp with the A’s.
Bridwell, 27, had an awful 2018 season but was a key member of the Halos’ pitching staff as recently as 2017. That year, he pitched to a 3.64 ERA in 121 innings (20 starts, one relief appearance). Bridwell’s meager 5.4 K/9 mark and sky-high strand rate pointed to some regression, though certainly not to the extent that he struggled last year (13 runs in 6 2/3 MLB frames; 27 runs in 28 Triple-A innings).
The Angels know they’ll be without Andrew Heaney for at least another month, and they opened the year with Nick Tropeano (shoulder) and J.C. Ramirez (recovering from 2018 Tommy John surgery) on the injured list as well. Beyond that, they will of course be without Shohei Ohtani’s presence in the rotation for the entire 2019 season. Injury issues have utterly decimated the Angels’ pitching staff for the past few seasons, so adding a familiar face who’s had success in the upper minors and at the MLB level is a logical move.
- Angels southpaw Andrew Heaney resumed throwing today, but he’s still expected to be sidelined for a month or more, per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger. A recent CT scan revealed what the team announced as “chronic changes” to Heaney’s left elbow, but it doesn’t appear as though there’s any threat of surgery for the left-hander. Heaney tossed 180 solid innings for the Halos in 2018 but has yet to take the mound in 2019 after being limited to just 1 2/3 innings in Spring Training.
- Elbow problems have delayed Andrew Heaney’s start to the season, and the Angels southpaw was open with his frustration about his continued injury woes in a conversation with Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register and other reporters. “I would love to be standing here telling you guys about my first start of the season and not (expletive) talking about injuries. Trust me. I don’t want to talk to you guys about this (expletive),” Heaney said. “But I’m trying to be honest, as honest as I can be with what I’m willing to put forth….I would love to scream from the mountaintops everything that’s going on, but it’s not going to help anybody.” Tommy John surgery kept Heaney out of action for much of the 2016-17 seasons, and he also experienced elbow soreness last spring before receiving a cortisone shot that seemed to solve the problem. Heaney went on to post a 4.15 ERA over 180 innings for the Angels, apparently putting his injury issues behind him before more soreness resurfaced during this year’s Spring Training. Once Heaney begins to feel better, it will still be some time before he is able to ramp up in order to rejoin the Halos’ rotation.
- The Angels announced yesterday that a CT scan revealed “chronic changes to the elbow” in left-hander Andrew Heaney. Ominous as that sounds, Heaney will be cleared to resume a throwing program within the next week to 10 days. He’s also undergoing a cortisone shot to help combat the discomfort in his elbow. The good news for the Angels is that there seemingly wasn’t any evidence of structural damage regarding Heaney’s ulnar collateral ligament. Heaney has yet to appear in a game this season and was limited to just 1 2/3 innings early in Spring Training, so even once he does resume a throwing program, he’ll still be several weeks from surfacing as an option in the Halos’ rotation.
Today: Castillo has cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Double-A Mobile, per a team release. He will remain with the Angels organization.
Mar. 27: The Angels announced their previously reported waiver claim of outfielder Brian Goodwin, adding that they’ve designated right-hander Jesus Castillo for assignment in order to open space on the 40-man roster.
Castillo originally came to the Angels in the 2016 trade that sent righty Joe Smith to the Cubs,. The 23-year-old spent the 2018 season with the Angels’ Double-A affiliate, pitching to a 4.94 ERA with 5.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9 and a 45.4 percent ground-ball rate. That represented a significant step back from a 2017 season in which Castillo recorded a 3.32 ERA with a 118-to-26 K/BB ratio in 124 2/3 innings between Class-A Advanced and Double-A. The Halos will now have a week to trade Castillo or attempt to pass him through outright waivers.
The Angels anticipate that outfielder Justin Upton will miss eight to twelve weeks of action, manage Brad Ausmus told reporters including MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (Twitter link). He had previously been diagnosed with a turf toe injury that turned out to be quite a bit more problematic than had been anticipated.
It’s rather poor news for the Halos, who already faced a tough road to the postseason this year. Upton and Shohei Ohtani supplemented Mike Trout last year in the middle of the lineup. Now both Upton and Ohtani are on the shelf; though the latter is making progress toward a return, it’ll still be at least a few more weeks before he’s back.
Upton slashed .257/.344/.463 last year, with thirty long balls in his 613 plate appearances. That’s actually a step back from his big 2017 campaign. Over a dozen years in the bigs, Upton carries a .268/.348/.478 batting line — just what he put up last year and just what might reasonably have been expected in 2019.
There’s simply no way the Angels will be able to replace that sort of productivity. The light-hitting Peter Bourjos had been on track to serve as a fourth outfielder after signing a minors deal. Instead he’ll platoon with Brian Goodwin, who was just picked up after being cut loose by the Royals.
That pair will hold down the fort for the time being. The front office could look for creative opportunities to upgrade, but it’s hard to imagine any particularly appealing names coming available. GM Billy Eppler all but snuffed out that possibility, saying he didn’t think an outside addition would take place. (Also via Bollinger, on Twitter.)
Neither does it seem the team can hope for much help from within. The depth options on hand were deemed inferior to Bourjos and Goodwin already. And there aren’t any particularly exciting upper-level prospects. Unfortunately, the club’s most talented pre-MLB player, Jo Adell, was slowed this spring with injuries to his ankle and hamstring that figure to keep him on ice until the summer. Even if the club was willing to consider an aggressive promotion timeline, he’ll need to get back to full strength first.